Chennai – Kuala Lumpur – Putrajaya – Langkawi island- Chennai
Surviving cyclone Vardah in Chennai
This time it was 10th of December 2016, when we arrived in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. We have been here before. Jayalalithaa Jayaram (very famous Tamil Nadu state Chief Minister) had recently died (5th December) and we were expecting some sort of unrest. However, the public sentiment seemed tamed, perhaps subdued by the unraveling of the recent banknote demonetisation (8th November – 31st December 2016) of all ₹500 and ₹1,000 (rupees) banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series. The latter caused cash starvation, difficulties transacting among the common people and tourists, frustrations and barter exchanges. The reason was the short supply of notes to ATMs by the banks (only few ATMs were actually working in the country), the daily limit on personal cash withdrawals and larger banknote nominations being given out to people.
The very next day the news were warning about the raging cyclone Vardah that was heading towards Southern India and was expected to hit in the next 24 hours. We could feel the strong winds already and hear peoples talks about the potential challenges after such cyclone. We had never experienced a cyclone of that magnitude to that day and were somewhat oblivious to what was coming. We managed to shop a fridge full of groceries as per people’s advice, which helped surviving the worst. And the same night very strong winds and torrential rains hit Chennai with destructive force. Trees, unstable building structures, vehicles were thrown across the streets and electricity cables scrambled, causing power cuts for the entire city. The images are still vivid in my head and somehow I failed to take pictures of the aftermath… perhaps I was busy surviving …
The winds and rain lasted two days, the power cuts up to a week in places and the clearing of debris more than a month. We found safe refuge in a hotel, away from the power cuts, mosquitoes and lack of water, which most people of Chennai experienced in that period. Slowly the city center was coming back to normal, power re-stored and businesses re-opened, despite debris and flood water remaining on the sides of roads and pavements.The 5th test cricket match India vs England was taking place in the period 16 – 20 December and fans were gathering and ignoring the challenges.
After three days in the hotel we had a flight to catch to go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Luckily, the airport re-opened just before our scheduled departure and we took off.
We came back to Chennai at the end of December and celebrated New Year here with lots of friends, fireworks and South Indian dishes. 🙂 Chennai recover from the cyclone and is busy as ever again.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A three hour and fifty minutes flight from Chennai took us to Kuala Lumpur International airport. Another one hour taxi and we were in the central district of Kuala Lumpur with its distinctive high-rise buildings and plenty of Christmas lights and decorations (seemed festive at the time). Also, lots of construction work was going on and it appeared to me the city was growing. The taxi driver disagreed, saying soon it would be elections again, that is why lots of projects are undertaken at this point in time, not that the economy was growing.
We had a good time in Kuala Lumpur exploring several places, including:
- the central district with its amazing shopping malls, landmark buildings and restaurants
- Beryl’s chocolate kingdom – an outlet of a chocolate factory, where one can choose from an extensive range of chocolates
- KL botanical gardens and bird park – lovely places for extended walks
- KL old town and museums
- Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary (also known as the Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary) is just over one hour drive from KL central district. It is a lovely place to visit if you want to learn about elephant conservation efforts in Malaysia and see some of the elephants bathing and being fed.
- Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples located in Gombak district of Kuala Lumpur. The cave is a popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It was quite an effort climbing the steep steps of the hill in a humid and hot December afternoon, however once inside it was cool and spiritual. A group of temple monkeys welcome you inside, as well as few birds and bats among the rocks.
Visiting Putrajaya – a planned city and the federal administrative centre of Malaysia
It was nice to see Putrajaya city, which is very clean and organised place. Being newly developed and planned with a vision to host the Government’s administration functions it offers plenty of space and landmarks to explore. We took a guided tour of (Perdana Putra) the office of the Prime Minister; (Seri Perdana) the official residence of the Prime Minister; Putra Mosque (the main mosque in the city) build with pink granite and its public places – parks and squares.
Langkawi island – the jewel of Kedah
We love peaceful tropical islands and we anticipated to enjoy this visit. It was indeed a lovely one. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi is one hour. The tropical island is easy to drive around and its main economy is tourism – dotted with small and big hotels, green hills and rice fields. Apart from enjoying the clean waters and beaches, the highlights of our visit include also:
- The Sky bridge and cable car experience – the views of the islands archipelago are spectacular on a clear day
- Kilim Karst Geoforest Park – we took a boat tour of the mangroves and rock formations, including visits to a bat cave, fish farm, Langkawi eagle fish feeding, Andaman sea overview
- Snorkeling and diving day tour to Palau Payar marine park – one can see abundance of tropical fish in the reefs, beware – some of them bite …. first time bitten by fish 🙂 Ouch!
- Visit to the crocodile park is educational
- Underwater world Langkawi – nice place to spend time with children
- Shopping for Langkawi arts and craft – lots of options across the island
Sunset in Langkawi
Overall, we enjoyed the holiday and the adventures it offered!